Sharks keep it real

2014-07-16 00:00

THE Sharks were cautious not to get too ahead of themselves as they prepared for Saturday’s Super Rugby qualifier against the Highlanders in Durban.

All the pre-game talk appears to focus on what they could potentially face in the two weeks ahead — a semi-final against the Crusaders in Christchurch, followed by the final against possibly the Waratahs in Sydney on August 2.

But captain Bismarck du Plessis has warned not to jump the gun.

“The thing is, if you look too far [ahead] you will slip at the first hurdle,” the Springbok hooker said. “We are only looking at Saturday, and hopefully we can be at our best in front of hopefully a full house.”

Du Plessis and his team will be hoping the match is the first of three as the season reaches its climax over the coming weeks. Despite being the South African conference winners by a long way, they only ended third on the log and now have to win the competition the hard way: on the road.

“When the season starts there’s 15 teams and there’s six left now,” the skipper said. “We wanted to be in the six and we’re really cherishing the opportunity to play in front of our home crowd.

“We were disappointed with the last game we played here and we really don’t want to finish on that note.”

That last game at King’s Park against the Stormers was one of two that saw them beaten at home this season. They also lost to the Saturday’s opponents, the Highlanders, in a surprise 34-18 scoreline back in April.

“Against us the last time here their forwards were really physical and were really dominant,” Du Plessis, who didn’t feature in the round nine clash, explained. “We can’t allow that this time.

“In that game, we gave them easy penalties in our area, I think Lima Sopoaga didn’t miss one kick that day. So we really have to play in the right areas.

“We have to be up for the challenge and need to put our mark of authority over them.”

With that loss, it means the Sharks have not won at home since April 19 against the Cheetahs and Du Plessis acknowledged there will be pressure to win, saying: “I wouldn’t say there’s extra pressure because we’re at home, there’s extra pressure because it’s a quarter-final and that’s the situation we put ourselves in.

“But hopefully we can perform in front of our home crowd.”

The Sharks were likely to get a huge boost this week following the return from injury of Patrick Lambie and Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira, although both were not part of full training yesterday.

Flyhalf Lambie has been out since March following surgery on a torn bicep, while prop Mtawarira has not played since the June international break after picking up a bulging disc problem with the Springboks.

Du Plessis added: “We’ll hopefully get Pat and Beast back, so that also provides a massive lift for the team, and brings a new energy and vibe to the team.”

• Tickets for the game are still available at a discounted rate of R350 for two adults and two children (offer is exclusive to the north and south stands only). There are also ordinary tickets available from between R90 and R150.

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